Anaheim, CA, May 2010. Liquid nutritional supplements have been the hottest segment of the industry for some time now, and the volume leader has been nutraceutical soft drinks. According to a market report by Mike King of Companies and Markets, issued on May 13, 2010, sales of nutraceutical soft drinks in Japan are expected to reach $10 billion by 2012. King asserts that “The market for functional food and drink is more than three times larger in the US (at over $27 billion in 2007) than it is in Europe (where it was worth almost $8.5 billion). Globally, the market for nutraceutical soft drinks is growing at just below 10% each year and this is expected to continue for the next five years at least.
“The market is also extremely complex. There is a large number of (often smaller, start-up) companies plus some powerful regional players as well as the increasing presence of multinationals. There is a great deal of innovation. As the boundaries between different product categories become blurred, we are seeing the rapid emergence of hybrid products such as dairy sports drinks, energy juices and enhanced waters. A related trend is towards multifunctional products such as combined energy-sports drinks, anti-tiredness and anti-stress energy drinks and energy-brain drinks.”
Asked why the big push into liquids?, Suhail Ishaq, President of GMP Labs, explains, “It’s just a matter of keeping up with growing demand. There are perfectly good reasons for the growing consumer preference for liquid packaging. Many people prefer the simplicity and convenience of drinkable products over popping pills, and in some instances, liquids may also afford greater bioavailability of key ingredients. The main reason that liquid nutraceuticals are on the rise though, is because they ‘go down’ easier than pills and capsules. Many people already take a substantial number of pills every day, and they are resistant to the idea of taking even more. In addition, a lot of people find it difficult or impossible to take any pills at all.
“In response to growing consumer demand, contract manufacturers have been expanding their liquid production capabilities. GMP Labs, for example, has recently added enhanced capabilities to produce a wide range of cold fill liquid products, including liquid dietary supplements, syrups, oral powder and liquid suspensions, nutrient enhanced vitamin water, oxygenated water, ready-to-drink (RTD) beverages, liquid shots, liquid shooters, energy drinks, joint juice, vitamin and mineral supplements, amino acid supplements, colloidal mineral suspensions, antioxidant berry juice blends, omega 3 oils, essential oils, and more.
“The expanded packaging operations include high-speed bottling in size ranges from 30 to 1000 ml and single serving liquid pouches and stick packs. Various water purification and enhancement technologies are utilized in the new facility, including a seven-step reverse osmosis process, UV sterilization and de-ionization processes that produce high quality ultra-pure water at near USP specification.”
It seems as though every manufacturer of solid nutraceutical products is looking to hop on the ‘liquids bandwagon’ by racing to market with liquid versions of their best sellers, and contract manufacturers are being inundated with orders to convert and repackage these existing products to liquid form. Because of this stampede, and especially because everybody is anxious to get their liquids to market ‘yesterday,’ a word of caution is perhaps in order: Beware of contract manufacturers who promise to meet unrealistic deadlines or who are not cGMP-certified. If you are tempted to consider cGMP certification as a dispensable luxury, think about British Petroleum, whose unfortunate decision to cut corners on a $500,000 blowout preventer and other backup safety items resulted in an environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Apart from the much larger environmental implications of the disaster, BP’s shortsighted decision is an object lesson in the pitfalls of being ‘penny wise and dollar foolish.